by The Church
REVIEWS and COMMENTS
Once dazed and a little dangerous, The Church teetered on the edge just enough to report back to base with an astonished perspective. Nowadays, though, they've come adrift from their dreams and their prevalent attitude seems premeditated, the tubercular poetry that filtered beautiful damage through "The Blurred Crusade" is now a role rather than a vocation.
"Heyday", for all its melodic sparkle, is basically second-hand emotion and all its songs are rewrites. The hint of sarcasm, infiltrating Steve Kilbey's laconic vocals on "Disenchanted" recalls nothing more than "Like A Rolling Stone" revisited while, even more obviously, "Already Yesterday" is blatantly "Younger Than Yesterday" restructured.
Years spent in cult anonymity have forced The Church into bludgeoning their options into dubious strengths, hence their choruses are now as chirpy cheap as The Hollies' and the would-be epic, "Night Of Light", mutates dynamics into histrionics.
"Heyday" really lacks the stoned arrogance of the stirring successors to The Only Ones' out-of-it nonchalance. Today they sound more like Squeeze, a nostalgic anachronism whose only experimental indulgence, "Happy Hunting Ground", is an instrumental that stalks around a springcleaned Felt and a Big Country rehearsal marred by a dreadful invasion of strings.
"Heyday" lacks nerve, knows too many tricks, sounds too like Blue Oyster Cult for discomfort. Great music can never come from other music. Fact.
This is the fourth album from the ecclesiastical ramblers, and their finest 40 minutes or so yet. Not that 1983's Seance—fine and stimulating as it still is—was such a hard act to follow. For a start, this is the first time Steven Kilbey (vocals and bass) hasn't written all but everything—of the 12 songs, eight are composed by the entire quartet, leaving one apiece for guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, and one for Kilbey, plus a co-composition.
Soundwise, there's the usual layers of jangle, shimmer, plinking and twang, familiar whirlpools of melodic invention. And that's just the guitars. Richard Ploog drums with solid dementia and captivating rhythm, displaying a healthy minimum of fuss. Brass and strings appear—and sometimes meet—to lend light and/or weight to several tracks. Kilbey's voice too is a revelation, not so much for its forward lean in the mix as its clearer intonation, greater application and stronger attitude. Same all round: it's true! Some bands do improve—there's an atmosphere of fresh aggression here, an air of seriously determined creativity.
Producer Peter Walsh (Scott Walker's brilliant Climate Of Hunter, Simple Minds, Heaven 17 etc) imbues all shades of expression, and occasionally injects anything from keyboards to claves. It's an Aurora Australis of pop—less kaleidoscopic than the Church have been inclined to be, Heyday glows constant with startling colour and confidence. If one has a quibble, it's the stained-glass-on-paisley hangover: but at least they pioneered the revival of amoebas-as-artform.
If such a hackneyed image inspires the rushes of energy and spirit of adventure on Heyday, well... the mind boggles. And perhaps strangely so, Kilbey's lyrics show sharper perception; they may well retain an edge of wilfully vague obscurity, yet manage to quell the more florid and obtuse elements of Church past. Talking loud and saying little? Who cares? Abstraction (in this case, semi-) is a wonderful thing, favouring the shape of language in a world of sound.
Art nouveau rock'n'roll? Perhaps. It's still unequivocally fundamental: a good reason for rising early on any day.
Uplifting and strong
How can you be so invisible
Give me the nerves to see
Privilege on privilege
An unwanted discovery
All the brooding and dark-edged cynicism of the last few Church records have been virtually vacuum-cleaned away. Heyday sees a more positive Church, uplifted and strong, more eager to communicate, with some crisp intelligent production touches and subtle use of brass/strings to give the music even greater purpose and vision.
By this stage, you'd have worked out if you like The Church or not. Whether by design or not, they make records that the Great Unwashed Public generally isn't sure whether it could fall in love with or not. The language and imagery is unquietening; the international artifice and classic ritual leaves the listener feeling uneasy.
A quick whip-around in the Juke offices came up with the general opinion that Heyday is the sort of LP that could become cherished by people who haven't cared too much for The Church in the past. A couple of the tracks here like "Columbus" "Tantalized" and "Youth Worshipper" are prime Grade A-1 pop; it's a more accessible Church without an iota of compromise in quality. The first thing you note about Heyday is that the songs have an equally disquieting effect; more so with increased listening.
Hooves and horns and teeth and bones
Gonna stitch you up where youd've come unsown
Youth worshipper, wrapped up in blue fur and ermine
Youth worshipper, got no pity for vermin
While "Disenchanted" and "Already Yesterday" are no more than a redefinition of the now-trademark space-folk guitar music of the first few records, the strongest and long lasting cuts are the ones where muscles are flexed, the past comes to terms, and exoric cultures evokes.
Equating Church music with a sense of spiritualism would be almost like drawing a bad pun. True, the inspired guitarwork and interplay with bass/drums provides a genuine excitement. But what draws the listener back time and time again is the yearning and vulnerable quality in the vocals, in such haunting tracks as "Myrrh" or "Tantalized". By definition, it's spiritual music in the very best sense: it doesn't always make sense except in the heart, which won't ignore it. There might be a touch of confusion and venom in some of the lines, but it[s] wit and charm strike beyond.
What [The] Church do here, of course, is hardly unprecedented. But rather than follow on in the tradition of REM, Green On Red etc. which they've always been attributed to, Heyday could easily slot alongside Dylan's soundtrack to Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard or even Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" where the lyrics indulge in the wisdom and mystery of some ancient spirit. From the opening cut, "Myrrh" the ethereal sense is complemented by full instrumental texture, with an instrumental two-part "Happy Hunting Ground" that evokes the myths and dream-time of ancient tribes. The latter is a track that attempts to convey a message and attitude without the need for words, but ultimately poses more questions than it answers.
For the first time in so many Church records, there is no distance, no attempt to recapture any past glories. Every single track here has something going for it; as John Prine once said of Jackson Browne, I don't know where they get their melodies, but I'd sure like to go there.
Heyday is the best album The Church could have come up with to launch themselves internationally with. And, verily verily it is written, when you die and go to heaven, you don't hear harps but Rickenbacker. And they'll probably be playing Church music.
9 (out of 10)
What's in a name? Calling an album Heyday, which turns out to be one of their best or maybe even the best album they ever made, is a sign of foresight. In 1985, The Church had established itself as one of the more distinct Australian bands. Their debut Of Skins And Heart at the start of the decade already showed that they had something to offer. Indebted to both new wave/post-punk as well as psychedelia, they became one of the flag-bearers of what was called neo-psychedelia. At the other end of the planet bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen, The Soft Boys and The Icicle Works embarked on a similar approach. The Church were (and are) highly productive, delivering an album almost every year, which is by today's standards quite impressive. Additionally, Steve Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes enjoy solo careers, and The Church is known for its extensive tours. Aural artists that devote their life solely to music. Well, not solely because Steve Kilbey is also active as a painter and writer. Heyday was produced by Steve Walsh who would also collaborate with Pete Murphy.
Drums slowly whip up both tempo and volume on the driving opener "Myrrh". The gossamer guitars gradually increase in strength and the climax is followed by a smooth transition into the central part. Steve Kilbey brings his opaque lyrics with a stylish kind of cool and via overdubs acts as his own vocal ghost. Passionate, but restrained. Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes play a delicate string duel. This twin guitar approach is one of the typical Church arrangements. Marty brings his strings to dreamy, fluid heights; Peter serves as an anchor. "Myrrh" was never issued as a single, but it became a fan favorite and remains a live staple. "Tristesse" is characterised by gentle, sprightly chord riffs and a piano buried in it. Richard Ploog strengthens the chorus with more intense drumming which adds to the liveliness. The reflective "Already Yesterday" is probably the most dreamy track on the album, thanks to the nebulous guitar during the verses. The subdued backing choir is a notable ingredient. Such ornaments did not appear on previous albums and it marks the more elaborated nature of Heyday. The foggy and foreboding guitars during the intro of "Columbus" suddenly make way for a brisker theme with piano and guitars that perform in perfect harmony. The verse sounds relatively wistful and lyrics such as 'I can't change any of you, I can't change myself' do not really address happy thoughts. "Happy Hunting Ground" is one of the most orchestrated Church songs of all time. This stately combination of delicate strings (both violin and guitar) is full of atmosphere. Clear synths that veer between minor key and upbeat give "As You Will" a sparkling touch. For the first time in the career of The Church Peter Koppes is responsible for the vocals. While he hasn't the emotional capabilities of Steve Kilbey, his more soothing style fits well with his precise, lucent guitar play. "Tantalized" contains comparatively heated guitar lines, this kind of fervid rock hadn't been displayed since their early days. The use of trumpets on this song has been the subject of some serious discussion among fans. Fact is that they certainly don't diminish the underlying tension of the track, they rather boost the stylish agitation. The Byrds had always been a point of reference for The Church and on "Disenchanted" one can hear that again. The 12-string Rickenbacker jangles like it is still 1967 and the graceful, melancholic organ further adds to that '60s feel. The next two songs are ornamented with horns and violins. This works well on the brisk "Night of Light", which holds the right balance. On "Youth Worshipper" the guitars gradually get supplanted by those additional instruments and that doesn't really fit the band as both guitarists have enough to offer on the melodic front. A case of over-production? The stately and sober intro of "Roman" is most graceful, a gem on its own. As the guitars kick in the shimmering yet spirited style unrolls. With the Marty Willson-Piper sung "The View" the album ends. The ringing, layered guitars shine in their unique way. A fine way to close this virtually flawless album.
Heyday is a treasure of '80s indie rock, on par with The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead (Steve Kilbey's vocals are certainly just as mysterious and poetic as Morrissey's), Strange Times by The Chameleons (The Church rivals them in terms of ethereal guitar work), Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' Rattlesnakes and R.E.M.'s mid '80s work, to give some examples. The Marty Willson-Piper/Peter Koppes combo on guitar matches any string duo of the '80s and beyond. With Heyday The Church reached a creative peak, but not yet a commercial one. In 1988 they would score that unexpected hit "Under the Milky Way", which was well-deserved considering their achievements during the years before.
(Zonophone/EMI - 7243 4 99033 2 6)
** (2 stars out of 5)
Formed in Canberra, Australia in 1980, The Church, along with the likes of The Rain Parade and The Three O'Clock, made small in-roads for a new psychedelic movement that music papers of the day picked up on with some degree of enthusiasm. 'Heyday', their second album [You missed a few there, Jerry! - fip], is the one worth owning, and although enjoyable then, time has rendered their sound a tad twee. It's been less kind to their mullet haircuts, however.
(EMI EMC 3580)
KK (2 stars)
What a disappointment! The single, 'Tantalised', offered so much promise that I was expecting an album which, whilst perhaps not being 'Kerrang! material', would give at least some reasons to get enthusiastic. Something to show that 'Tantalised' wasn't just a flash-in-the-pan, a rose-in-a-bed-of-thorns affair. In fact, there's very little here that even comes close to it, and I expect that anyone who buys this album on the strength of that (very good) song is going to be disappointed.
An LP representing the Australian faction of acoustic guitar-based Eighties 'psychedelia', 'Heyday' fails simply due to the poor quality of the majority of the songs and also (probably more so) due to some of these songs suffering from a misguided approach to arrangements.
'Columbus' and 'Roman', both reasonably good numbers, are the only two that I could firmly place on the same side of the fence as 'Tantalised'. I doubt if more than a few would give a Castlemain XXXX for 'Heyday'.
If ever an album was aptly named it is this one. Heyday captures The Church building on their early '80s promise to finally deliver the psychedelic widescreen soundscapes they had aspired to, but never quite reached. Much of the credit must go to producer Peter Walsh, who, not entirely surprisingly given his innovative work with Scott Walker, fleshed out the band's guitar heavy sound with intricate and subtle orchestral arrangements. Yet Walsh was fortunate in that he had some of the band's finest songs to experiment with. 'Tristesse' and 'Already Yesterday' boast the huge Pink Floyd-esque choruses that were becoming their trademark, while 'Tantalized', driven along by blistering horn-driven riffs and a manic bass line, showcased a new intensity in their songwriting. The band's next album Starfish would be their breakthrough yielding 'Under The Milky Way', their best-known song, but the groundwork had been done on Heyday, and to these ears it remains their finest moment.
Frequently misunderstood as Australia's contribution to the new psychedelia, the Church is in fact a rock & roll sect of rare distinction (the screaming paisley motif of this album's cover notwithstanding). With its 1981 Australian hit, "The Unguarded Moment," and the group's '82 import jewel, The Blurred Crusade, the Sydney quartet laid the foundation for a stately cathedral—guitar rock distinguished by a haunting resonance, a regal rhythmic bearing and an unexpected hint of menace. What you get is more like a diligently polished Television than Byrds-by-numbers.
At times, Heyday, the Church's third U.S. release, indeed reverberates with familiar echoes of acid pop past and present, particularly in the latticework guitars of Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper and the shy, prayerful tone of singer and bassist Steven Kilbey's throaty vocals. The instrumental "Happy Hunting Ground" floats over a bed of pillowy acoustic guitars and benign bongos, its plucked strings and swelling tremolo guitar capturing both the meditative sincerity and endearing whimsy of Sixties raga kitsch. More arresting, though, is the deployment of strings and horns to accent the band's high-amp thrust on "Tantalized" and "Night of Light." Combined with the guitarists' excited arpeggios and locomotive scratch, the distant Stax/Volt bleating of the brass in "Tantalized" and the sorrowful grace of the strings on "Night of Light" suggest a more electrified version of Lowe's '68 orchestral rock classic Forever Changes.
Stripped down to basics, the Church can be no less evocative. Kilbey's voice drips with the casual sarcasm of Lou Reed in "Disenchanted," while the urgent chatter of Koppes and Willson-Piper's guitars in "Myrrh," underscored by Richard Ploog's torpedo drumming, sounds like Television dismantling "Eight Miles High." There is sometimes more murk than mystery in producer Peter Walsh's overuse of echo here, and the telegraphic impressionism of the lyrics, usually Kilbey's, may confound some listeners. But there is no mistaking the troubled elegance of the guitars in "Columbus" or Kilbey's broad pop hints in "Already Yesterday." As its title implies, Heyday is prime Church. Go forth and dig it.
★★★☆☆ (three stars out of five)
If, like most Americans, you've never heard of the Church, you'd only need to take one look at this smothered-in-paisley album cover to realize this Australian quartet has a real fascination with the '60s. And, indeed, with their ringing guitars and singer Steven Kilbey's slightly distant vocals, the group does possess several attributes of psychedelia. But on this LP the group has teamed up with former Simple Minds producer Peter Walsh, and the result is a much more luxurious record, one with strings, horns and synthesizers. It makes for a very appealing, very big sound, one that somehow combines the attraction of bands like U2 and Simple Minds with that of American guitar groups like R.E.M. and dB's.
★★★ [3 stars]
If, like most Americans, you've never heard of the Church, you'd only need to take one look at this smothered-in-paisley album cover to realize this Australian quartet has a real fascination with the '60s. And, indeed, with their ringing guitars and singer Steven Kilbey's slightly distant vocals, the group does possess several attributes of psychedelia. But on this LP the group has teamed up with former Simple Minds producer Peter Walsh, and the result is a much more luxurious record, one with strings, horns and synthesizers. It makes for a very appealing, very big sound.
The Church, from Sydney, Australia, have released four LPs and an odd number of EPs Down Under, but "Heyday" is only their second U.S. release. It's a good thing that the whole lot of it it [sic] didn't survive the ocean crossing.
The Church's is a ponderous and dreary sort of rock music. They have all the faults of the better current U.K. bands, with none of the strengths. "Myrrh" is dark, boring rock with biblical pretensions. "Tristesse," though cushioned by production atmospherics, remains insubstantial.
The lyrics of the Church, penned by bassist/lead singer Steven Kilbey, are inaccessable [sic] to the point of annoyance. Take "Tantalized":
All that glittered had me mesmerized
Otherwise I would had [sic] dared
Guess the nature of our enterprise
Can't stop to sympathize
How [sic] you've been tantalized
The Chruch's [sic] instrumental attempts, such as "Happy Hunting Ground," fare no better than the worded songs.
No, symphonic touches can't rescue this lot, either ("Night of Light"). References to such hotspots as Avalon, Bombay, Jericho, and Dodge City all peter-out in dead-end cliches. A mist-shrouded muddle.
The Church keeps faith with guitar-based pop
Every day seems to find another candidate for admission to the ever-growing brotherhood of guitar-toting clans. Some of these are capable, even gifted; yet there seems to be an inordinate number hell-bent on jangling us into submission or blinding us with radiant white badges with the word SINCERITY firmly embossed on them.
Yet, while a goodly number of these bands are the recipients of extravagant critical acclaim, The Church, which covered a lot of this territory (but with more style) three years ago, is practically ignored. In 1986 they still have the crystalline guitars and rousing imagery that renders most of their imitators redundant, even if their latest offering Heydey [sic] is at times a patchy proposition.
You are found wondering, for example, what a transcendental song like Disenchanted with its delicate filigrees is doing on the same album as a corpulent plodder like Tantalized, which sounds like nothing so much as sloppy U2 (erk! that name again!) outtake. Incredibly, it has been chosen as the follow-up to the taunting Already Yesterday. That amounts to a case of sabotage, even the French Secret Service would be proud of.
It is a particularly strange choice because, apart from the overlong instrumental Happy Hunting Ground, the remainder of the material is as strong as anything the band has ever done, and that includes songs from the sublime Blurred Crusade. Myrrh, Columbus, Night of Lights [sic] and the aforementioned Disenchanted are The Church at their intoxicating best, with guitars that at once suggest tranquility and menace and the plaintive tease of their lyrics.
The production of Peter Walsh is laudable. He has enhanced the band's undeniable assets — the fragile elegance of Steve Kilbey's voice and those exquisite guitars, without trying to inject any form of unnecessary flamboyance into the mix. Consequently, the essentially muted beauty of The Church is left intact, something other producers have failed to achieve.
The Church present a challenge to us all. They do not flounder like so many others trying to keep up with new trends; they do not have to because their music is eternal.
If that means from time to time they're not considered "hip", that doesn't seem to worry them and neither should it worry you. As long as groups like The Church stick around, guitar-based pop will continue to breathe life.
A superb album, but strangely the choice of single, Tantalised, is the weakest track on it.
Heyday is not preoccupied with the melancholy and reflectiveness of The Church's last L.P., Seance, and it doesn't have the beautiful simplicity of the second L.P., The Blurred Crusade (which I think is one of the best 10 albums made by any band).
Myrrh, Disenchanted and Youth Worshipper are the best tracks. These songs have extremely beautiful melodies and in them (and in the rest of the album), Steve Kilbey has extended his vocal range. Unlike past work, where Kilbey was seemingly preoccupied with being dry and serious, the bass-playing songwriter now seems to have more fun — there are moments on the record where I grabbed the inner sleeve to determine if he had indeed sung them.
Other changes not enjoyed in the past include the augmentation of strings, horns and a choir, and the fact that most of the songs are credited as having been written by the band and not solely by Kilbey.
The album includes the instrumental Happy Hunting Ground and the last single, Already Yesterday.
Cheveux longs, boucles d'oreilles, chemises cachemire à longs cols, décors tapis persans, ces jeunes gens arborent, d'emblée, une image délicieusement poppy, sixties et un tantinet surannée. Quatuor australien formé en 1980 à Sydney par Steven Kilbey et Peter Koppes, The Church a le look adéquat à la musique qu'il distille sur ce dernier Lp.
Guitare rythmique limpide, presqu'acoustique, clavier discret et harmonique, voix acidulées très souvent doublées voire triplées, les mélodies évidentes, sûres, équilibrées et accrocheuses regorgent sans jamais se répéter tout au long de ces dix vraies chansons. Aucun abus ici, point d'électricité rebelle et métallique, point de variété compromettante non plus. Juste une jolie musique qui n'a d'autre prétention que séduire, caresser le tympan tout en respectant l'ordre établi des règles draconiennes de l'esthétisme et du bon goût. Parfois même à l'excés comme sur « Happy Hunting Ground », si subtil qu'il en devient délicat, si mélancolique qu'il frise la langueur hypocondriaque, si apaisant qu'il vire au mou.
A l'opposé, « Myrrh » déploie plus d'allant, de conviction dans le désir de « faire » rock. Les Church avec leur savoir faire, leur dextérité, concoctent là une sémillante petite pièce musicale, fraîche, vivante, comme des Kinks ou des Jules Shear savent en modeler.
Il en va de même pour la superbe « Tristesse », aux accents dylaniens et surtout « Already Yesterday », creusée par l'écho, sertie d'arpèges. Simplicité harmonique, richesse des arrangements : la leçon, une fois de plus, est payante. Face B, trois titres à écouter en priorité : « Disenchanted », « Youth Worshipper » (Sublime!) et le fascinant « Roman ».
Quelques atouts de plus pour ce disque qui doit autant au « Swan Song » des Bee Gees qu'au « Sunny Afternoon » des Kinks. Cocktail fruité pour été chaud.
Long hair, earrings, long-necked cashmere shirts, Persian carpet decorations—these young people have, from the outset, a deliciously poppy, sixties and a tediously outdated image. The Australian Quartet formed in Sydney in 1980 by Steven Kilbey and Peter Koppes, The Church has the right look for the music it distills on their latest LP.
Limpid rhythm guitar, almost acoustic, discreet and harmonic keyboard, acidulated voice very often doubled or even tripled, the obvious, safe, balanced and catchy melodies are overflowing without ever repeating throughout these ten real songs. No abuse here, no rebellious and metallic electricity, no compromising variety either. Just a pretty music that has no other pretension than to seduce, caress the eardrum while respecting the established order of draconian rules of aesthetics and good taste. Sometimes even to the extreme as on "Happy Hunting Ground," so subtle that it becomes delicate, so melancholy that it borders the hypochondriac languor, so soothing that it turns soft.
In contrast, "Myrrh" unfolds more ranging, conviction in the desire to "make" rock. The Church with their know-how, their dexterity, concoct a tiny musical piece, fresh, living, like The Kinks or Jules Shear know how to model.
The same goes for the superb "Tristesse," with the Dylan accents and especially "Already Yesterday," hollowed out by the echo, set by arpeggios. Harmonic simplicity, richness of arrangements: the lesson, once again, pays off. Face B, three tracks to listen to in order: "Disenchanted," "Youth Worshipper" (Sublime!) and the fascinating "Roman".
Some more assets for this record which owes as much to the "Swan Song" of the Bee Gees as to the "Sunny Afternoon" of the The Kinks. Fruity cocktail for the hot summer.
The Church has been chosen to hit before, but this record could really put it over the top. Haunting, atmospheric sounds are enhanced by whimsical guitars and a wash of melody.
Not a new band, by any stretch of the imagination, but vibrant as any newcoming upstart. This is the CHURCH's fifth album. It's a double D (digitally mixed and mastered) recording and it really hits its stride at the core of side one—"Already Yesterday" into the next track, "Columbus." By the time "Tantalized" rolls around, things are going full force, sudden impact. HEYDAY will have little trouble making it as a viable Top Five Alternative priority. As a four piece rock n roll band, THE CHURCH mean serious business and are quite capable of crossing over to the more adventurous commercial programmers willing to succumb to quality.
Aussie quartet moves to a new label, grafting updated electronic textures onto its still recognizable folk-rock base. Byrdsian jangle is still much in evidence, as is the characteristic moody writing. College and alternative radio will break first.
Following the mostly excellent, yet under-selling EPs "Persia" and "Remote Luxury," The Church were firing on all cylinders on 1986's "Heyday" - notable for its fantastic cover featuring the members decked out in paisley shirts and rocking no less impressive mullets. Skip the bizarre Youth Worshipper, but savour Myrrh, Already Yesterday, Tristesse, Columbus and Tantalized - this is the sound of the band getting back on track and writing great songs. America, Under The Milky Way and rock immortality beckoned.
★★★★☆ (four stars out of five)
Can you put the release date for the US version and the Australian version (if they differ). I'm finding a lot of discrepancies with this album. Some releases say late '85 and others say early '86. Thanks for your help.
Australia - Nov. 1985
USA - Jan. 1986
At least for the initial LPs. Don't have the info for most of the others.
As befits their name, the Church plays music which can best be described in one word--devotional. The Church, you see, shows a distinct and noticeable respect for such ever-falling-by-the-wayside-in-these-heathen-times concepts as melody, harmony and structure, and the group does what it does in such an ordered, stately fashion that one is hard pressed to figure out why on you-know-who's earth more people haven't even heard of them, let alone made them as popular as they ought to, by divine right, really be.
They have, after all, been making exceptionally good records since their American debut for Capitol in 1982 and, even though they spent several years excommunicated from American record companies (the Australian quartet finally hooked up with U.S. Warner Bros. in late '84), even cursory listenings to any of the assorted imported and domestic LPs and EPs in their catalogue makes it clear that not only is their stuff good, and memorable, but it also displays an unerring clarity of vision that's really quite remarkable for what is essentially still a youngish band. Perhaps their lack of good fortune here has been just one more test of faith. If so, then Heyday should go a long way towards getting them over to the promised land.
On this new album, as in their past work, the Church gives us songs which require some attention to be appreciated (which is why they've been compared at times to Procol Harum), songs which lyrically resist revealing themselves too easily (which is why they've been compared at times to R.E.M.), songs which clearly have been painstakingly honed, part by part, until they literally shimmer (which is why they've been compared at times to the Byrds), songs which seem endlessly gliding and spatial (which is why they've been compared at times to early Pink Floyd). But all these reference points are just that--little anchors that keep letting you know from what waters the Church's gospel flows.
And flow it does--steadily, gracefully, often majestically. You wonder how the band manages to sound so serene, even at its most furious moments, like on the churning "Night Of Light" and "Tantalized"; how a song as deliriously opaque as "Myrrh" can still hit home; how the lilting "Columbus" can haunt you day after day after day, with no end in sight. And then you realize that it's the very mystery of these songs that make them so enchanting, and that that quality is exactly what's missing from so much of what passes for rock these days, and why the Church is such a special group. Amen.
The Church and Mental As Anything have little in common except their Australianness. The former revel in a pastel shade of psychedelia that has come to symbolize a particular strain of Antipodean revisionism. The latter meld their art school backgrounds with a countrified, good ol' boy sensibility that could only come from spending too much time in the pub and at the beach. The results though are similar: accessible pop-rock which transcends its Anglo-American roots to come up with something all its own.
The Church are easily the best of the Australian pseudo-psychedelic bands. They may not have the Hoodoo Gurus' sense of humor, but they have a ready substitute in their precise ear for haunting melodies and a gift for song craft. In the past, as on last year's Remote Luxury, lead vocalist/bassist Steve Kilbey hid the quartet's talents under layers of paisley pretense. Here, with songs like "Columbus," "Tristesse," and "Night Of Light," Kilbey has wisely ditched the affectations and instead concentrates on writing strong pop songs that just happen to have a paisley undertow. Another plus is that unlike many of their American counterparts, the Church don't kneel at the altar of underproduction. Britisher Peter Walsh, known for his work with Simple Minds, has livened up Kilbey's drone-style vocals and given the band a hard-edged kick.
If the Church's recording history has been marked by a series of false starts, almost-hits and frustrating delays, then Heyday does little to change that course. Mooted for some time as the Church album we've all been waiting for, Heyday is in point of fact no more and no less than another strong Church LP. Despite the superior production by Englishman Peter Walsh, it is no five-hit-singles effort. Indeed, with the first single "Already Yesterday" already a stiff, and with few other tracks screaming out for heavy airplay, it's hard to imagine what all the fuss is about.
The Church has always had a knack for making strong, listenable albums faulted only by Steve Kilbey's monotonous drone and apparent inability to produce stand-out tracks. Their occasional moments of brilliance - songs like "Almost With You" or "Constant In Opal" have unfortunately been balanced by way too many jangly, repetitive, hippie-dippy tunes that go nowhere fast. I suppose it goes without saying that many are also cloyingly pretentious.
Heyday is quite categorically not a bad album. While the heavy deployment of string and horns seems a little hamfisted (try Youth Worshipper for an example) there are nonetheless several strong songs almost all of which can be found on side one. As You Will, Myrrh and Tristesse all have their moment, as does Marty Willson-Piper's closing contribution to side two (The View). Great albums, needless to say, have more than just good moments. Even with Heyday under its belt, the Church still to prove that is is a great band.
A definite fan favorite from the mid 80s era... not quite the definitive lp as the Blurred Crusade was... and guilty of a bit of over production that marred a significant amount of music from this time... nevertheless... Heyday does contain many moments of brilliance....
un disco muy poderoso y con guitarras exelentes es un disco q a cualquier persona llama la atencion, as you will un temasotantalized un tema muy poderoso y myrrh igual aqui le habla un fanatico q tiene 17 años.
by Richard Cook
THE CHURCH 'Heyday' (EMI EMC 3508) ★★★★ (4 stars)
Scattered through this group's prolific history - they can't stop pouring out the songs and the records, it seems - are a cluster of jewels: 'Constant In Opal', 'Almost With You', 'Electric', all of the 'Sing-Songs' EP. Will they sew together the classic record that lurks inside them? 'Heyday' comes decently close.
Imagine Byrds grown into Bunnymen and feasting on the textures of Renaissance psychedelia: you're nearly there, and so are they, except it pans out a bit too pompous at times. 'Night Of Light', 'Tantalized' and 'Myrrh' are complex swirls of guitar melody developed into huge canvases - they're a small group, really, and this chest-beating doesn't suit them that well. But Stephen Kilbey's voice phrases a fine and elegant melancholy out of their words, and they've learned how to burnish their music.
'Tristesse' is a rewrite of 'Lady Madonna' that soars effortlessly out of their mouths and hands. It's a difficult game to play well: 'Already Yesterday', exactly the same on the surface, topples over into a sickly never never land of rotten romance. Then they're back on the map with the booming time-trip of 'Columbus'. Needs a pinch of indulgence, a moment's belief, but The Church dream good dreams.
A recent live set shot down all their pretty birds and left us with ugly metal stomp. I'll stick with the records. This one's fine.